Blues fire head coach Davis Payne

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues have changed coaches after a disappointing 6-7 start, firing Davis Payne and hiring Ken Hitchcock to a contract through next season.

The 40-year-old Payne was the second-youngest coach in the NHL but got only one full season with St. Louis after being hired in January 2010.

"It's obviously disappointing -- for any competitor or any coach it should be," Payne told ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance "That's the bottom line."

The 59-year-old Hitchcock is 534-350-88-70, winning a Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1998-1999 and also coaching at Philadelphia and Columbus.

The team called a news conference for Monday with Hitchcock and general manager Doug Armstrong, and said there would be no comment until then. Hitchcock will be on the bench for practice that afternoon. The Blues begin a five-game homestand Tuesday night against Chicago.

Hitchcock and team president John Davidson didn't return telephone messages from the AP.

The Blues were 67-55-15 under Payne. He was interim coach the remainder of the 2010-11 season after replacing Andy Murray and the interim tag was removed after the Blues finished 23-15-4.

Payne coached two seasons for the Blues' Peoria, Ill., affiliate in the AHL before getting promoted.

"I have nothing but good things to say about this team," Payne said. "They gave me a phenomenal opportunity to coach in the NHL and to learn. If I have to step aside and they have to move me aside and (Hitchcock) can come in and turn them into winners, I'm all for it. It's a good team and I wish nothing but the best for them."

The Blues were optimistic about making the playoffs for only the second time in seven seasons after adding veterans Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Nichol to a base of young talent.

Goalie Jaroslav Halak in particular has struggled with a 1-6 record, while backup Brian Elliott is 5-1. Forward Chris Stewart is off to a slow start with three points.

St. Louis lost four of its first six, then seemed to right itself with a three-game winning streak that included victories at Vancouver and Philadelphia but has dropped three of the last four.

"We as a staff felt our team as a group felt ready to turn the corner," Payne said. "They're well-poised and they have a lot of home games. Success should be right there for them."

Hitchcock's teams have won six division titles and topped 100 points eight times. He inherits a team expected to contend for a playoff spot after missing the postseason five of the previous six seasons.

Since being fired by the Blue Jackets in February 2010, Hitchcock coached the Canadian national team in the world championships earlier this year. Hitchcock has worked with seven national teams for Canada, including the 2008 world championship squad that won the silver medal in Quebec City.

Information from ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance and The Associated Press was used in this report.